AMBULANCE chiefs will be grilled by a healthcare committee this week after a report revealed that the trust was at ‘breaking point’ with almost £60m of savings still to be made over the next five years.
The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) bosses will face tough questions from members of Bedford Borough Council’s Adult Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Borough Hall in Bedford on Tuesday over failing to meet its response targets, high staff sickness levels and complaints about ‘serious incidents’ from members of the public.
It is also thought that around 75 per cent of the cuts being made will affect frontline 999 services.
After months of patients experencing long waits for ambulances to arrive, the trust is said to be in crisis yet further cuts will need to be made to find savings of between £50-£60m in the next five years.
The report was published last week and the results heavily criticised by ambulance service union the GMB.
It revealed that target response times for reaching an emergency within eight minutes and within 19 minutes had both fallen short of targets, something which had ‘further deteriorated’ since the last report. It also claimed staff vacancys at EEAST were high and that absences had reached 11 per cent with around 220 employees being unavailable at any one time, ‘something which ‘continues to be an issue’.
In November, Luton on Sunday reported how staff morale at the ambulance service was low after dramatic changes to shift patterns were made last year.
Tony Hughes, GMB Organiser, for union members at the trust, said: “Our Members are working long, demanding shifts, often in very stressful circumstances. The fact that the ambulance service is unable to meet its recruitment targets just shows that the wages and conditions of Emergency Care Assistants are deterring people from applying. You can only push your workforce so far before they break; the rise in sickness levels is entirely predictable”.
A spokesman for EEAST said: “The Trust is attending the meeting at Borough Hall to give an update on the ambulance service and respond to questions from local members.
“We have put in place a number of initiatives to improve its service to patients. This is part of a wider strategy to deliver a more tailored service to patients whilst meeting the challenges EEAST faces – an ever increasing number of 999 calls, the ongoing drive to improve the quality of services and the need to make efficiency savings of around £50 million in a five year period.
“As a result, EEAST is implementing a new integrated service model to deliver this strategy. At the heart of this is a more in depth telephone assessment for those patients with less serious conditions to get them the help they really need rather than sending an ambulance.
“It should be noted that performance in Bedfordshire remains strong. A8 performance is at 77.93 per cent and A19 at 98.05 per cent. These targets are for ‘red calls’, or for patients with potentially life threatening conditions.”